New guide promotes language that reduces stigma, honors people’s unique and varied health experiences, and creates greater health equity
In an effort to eliminate discriminating and misleading language in the U.S. healthcare system, Healthline Media has published the industry’s first Conscious Language Guide for consumers and health professionals. Healthline’s Conscious Language Guide is the third pillar in the company’s TRANSFORM: Health Equity initiative founded to create a more inclusive and equitable healthcare system in the U.S. and advocate for those who are marginalized by it.
The new guide seeks to eliminate a common barrier to health and well-being: the language people use to talk about historically marginalized communities and common health conditions like diabetes, mental illness and substance use disorders. The guide is accompanied by personal stories about the impact of language from Healthline writers and voices from relevant communities. It’s the first of its kind from an evidence-based digital consumer health publication.
The new Conscious Language Guide is now live at: transform.healthline.com/language. Anyone can access the guide for free.
“The research is clear: words matter,” said Dria Barnes, Healthline Senior Vice President of Content and Brand Strategy. “Conscious language isn’t about limiting what people can say, it’s about expanding representation and ultimately improving people’s health. Greater awareness of the words we use can help create a more humane, inclusive and effective healthcare system.”
Choosing words that create greater health equity
The Conscious Language Guide draws on anthropological, historical and other humanitarian research; government data; and conversations with communities and advocates in order to understand the economic, social and environmental context of the language we use.
The guide isn’t intended as a definitive list of do’s and don’ts but rather provides a strong foundation that healthcare professionals and everyday people can use to cultivate more considerate, intentional and effective processes for listening and speaking.
The guide considers three different aspects of language:
- Framing and phrasing, which explores the nuances of health topics and conditions within social, economic and environmental context, and uses language in a way that is empathetic and non-stigmatizing, and does not promote bias.
- Acknowledging bias, which considers bias that exists in current medical research, how to identify it, and how to avoid replicating it in future research and other publications.
- Relatability and inclusivity, which considers historically marginalized communities and how health messages tailored to the specific needs of these groups can be more effective than general health messages.
“People have varied and unique health experiences. Conscious language recognizes that,” added Bella De Soriano, Healthline Senior Manager, Public Health Integrity. “Healthline is leading with conscious language as we seek to reduce stigma and discrimination by understanding the social and cultural healthcare needs of each person.”